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My experience as a mother is why I’m fighting for a Yes vote

I have two children. For one of them a simple model of a happy life is currently unobtainable. Being gay, my son is denied a right his older sister takes for granted.

Vera Kelly

Vera Kelly from Firhouse, Dublin 24, volunteers as a co-facilitator with ‘LOOK – Loving Our Out Kids’, an organisation that supports parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) children. Here, she writes about her experience of her son coming out, her support for the BeLonG To YES campaign, and why she hopes the upcoming marriage equality referendum will pass.

MY SON CAME out to us as gay on Christmas Eve 2005, when he was 16. He had been going through a period of turmoil – a time of extreme confusion and uncertainty – ever since he became aware of his sexuality, and it was very hard for him to get off his chest this truth he’d kept hidden from me, my husband, his sister and everyone else.

Truth be told, despite a sneaking suspicion on my part, my husband and I were both left reeling when he finally told us. Fear and anxiety crept into our lives. What would his life be like? Would it be more difficult? Or dangerous? Every little thing presented a new worry. There were so many unknowns. It was all but easy for us to come to terms with this situation at first.

We were afraid that our son might have to face rejection and obstacles that heterosexual people are not subjected to. We were concerned that he wouldn’t be embraced and accepted by a society which we feared might leave in the cold those that weren’t part of the straight majority. We also worried that he would be denied the happiness and comfort that getting married and raising a family had brought us.

Understanding and support

Ever since that Christmas Eve, I had had a burning desire to talk to somebody about my fears and worries, somebody who would understand and who wouldn’t judge, but back then I didn’t know any other parents of gay children and didn’t know who to turn to. I had heard of the Gay Switchboard but something kept me from picking up the phone. The news was still so raw.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I was listening to RTÉ’s ‘Gerry Ryan Show’ where Louise Donovan of an organisation called ‘Parents’ Support’, now ‘LOOK – Loving Our Out Kids’, was talking about her experience of working with parents of LGBT children, that I felt I could make that first call and talk to somebody about this new aspect of my family’s life.

Since that call, I have never looked back and, both for me and, later, my husband, speaking to other parents who were facing the same situation gradually alleviated our anxieties, worries and our confusion. Around the same time, our son started going to BeLonG To, the national organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people, where he found outstanding support and made many great friends.

All you have for your children is love – all you want is their happiness

For a number of years now, I’ve been a co-facilitator with LOOK, where I and another mother of a gay son – regularly meet with parents who need to talk about and adjust to their children’s sexuality. Although no two families are the same and parents’ reactions to their children’s coming out constitute a massive jumble of emotions, there is one thing most parents I meet have in common.

Like my husband and I, these parents love their children with all their hearts and they are worried about the rejection they fear their children will have to face in a society where being LGBT means you are not granted the same civil rights, the same chance to marry somebody you love, the same basis for living as a family as everyone else; in short – full equality.

From the time your children are born, all you have for them is love and all you want for them is happiness. As they begin to grow as people you start to develop hopes and aspirations for them. You want them to be good people who engage with life and contribute to society, and you hope that they find the happy lives they deserve.

This happiness is often centred on their love of and commitment to a person. I have two children and for one of them this simple model of a happy life is currently unobtainable. Being gay, my son is denied a right his older sister takes for granted.

Look your children in the eye and tell them that they are equal

As a mother I know my two children are equal, and it’s past due that this equality is legally recognised. So for my children, your children, their children and their children’s children, please vote yes and encourage others to do so too. Engage with people in your work place, at schools, in shops, in hairdressers and wherever else you can. Tell people it’s a matter of equality and it’s all about two people loving each other.

My experience as a mother is why I’m fighting for a yes vote. I want parents of LGBT children who are not yet entitled to vote, as well as future parents of LGBT children, to be able to look their children in the eye and tell them that they are equal, they are cared for, and that they don’t have to change who they are.

Winning this referendum is absolutely vital for making this happen. Rather than enshrining inequality in our law, imagine what it would be like to create a legal framework to ensure the life of the next generation of LGBT young people begins with a ‘yes’.

About the author:

Vera Kelly

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